State wildlife officials have determined that the animal seen in a Scarborough backyard is a bobcat, not a mountain lion.

A woman photographed the feline in her backyard Sept. 26, believing it was the more dangerous and larger mountain lion, also called a cougar, panther, catamount or puma.

Scott Lindsay, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, said he saw another resident’s photo of what he believes is the same cat. The second photo was much clearer, showing the distinct tail, spots and facial features of a bobcat. Bobcats are relatively plentiful in Maine, even near the coast, with the state’s population between 30,000 and 40,000, Lindsay said.

Conversely, state wildlife officials say there are no wild mountain lions in Maine, and that any sightings of the animals would be captive mountain lions that have been illegally released. A mountain lion killed on the Maine-Quebec border in 1938 is officially considered the last indisputable proof of the cat’s presence here.

Even so, reports about the possibility of a mountain lion wandering in Scarborough led to a flurry of calls to police from concerned residents.

Police sent the photo to state game wardens, wildlife biologists and the town’s animal control officer. All of them concluded, based on the shape of the animal, that it was a bobcat, said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service.

A similar animal – possibly the same one – was seen recently in an area of Cape Elizabeth near the Scarborough town line, police said.

Bobcats are much smaller than mountain lions. Males are 20 to 30 pounds and 3 feet long versus 175 pounds and up to 8 feet long – including the tail – for a mountain lion.

Even though there are many bobcats in the state, the reclusive animals are rarely seen. If a bobcat is encountered, people should not approach it or try to corner it, officials say.

Game wardens receive regular reports of people who believe they may have seen a mountain lion, MacDonald said. Some have gotten widespread attention.

Cape Elizabeth had multiple sightings in the 1990s, including one in which hairs were tested and found to be like those found on a mountain lion, though no confirming DNA tests were done.

In 2000, a hunter in Monmouth reported seeing an adult mountain lion and a kitten. State wildlife experts examined tracks in the area and said they belonged to a cat that was too big to be a lynx or bobcat.

Sometimes people mistake other large wild animals, such as fisher cats and coyotes – or in this case a bobcat – for mountain lions.

Mountain lions largely disappeared from Maine in the 1800s, victims of indiscriminate hunting and trapping, habitat changes and declining deer, moose and caribou populations, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. They are found in Montana, Idaho, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman

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